Published On: Sun, Dec 18th, 2022

Healthkeeperz Pledges Support for Local BakPak Pals Program

Organizations like Pembroke, North Carolina-based home health services provider HealthKeeperz are supporting efforts to help K-12 students succeed by offsetting some of the challenges that can lead students to eventually drop out of school.

This initiative is just the latest in a long line of charitable works by HealthKeeperz, which has been community-minded since its inception. 

Says Tim Brooks, HealthKeeperz president, “HealthKeeperz has truly evolved over the years. Howard Brooks (my dad) started a community pharmacy in Pembroke, North Carolina, and expanded the services over the years. He essentially sought to meet the needs of the community and provide for his family. Thankfully, the community responded quite well and we have since been able to expand our services beyond the pharmacy.”

And has there ever been a worthier cause than feeding hungry children? HealthKeeperz is partnering with BakPak to provide “healthy food and snacks that will assist identified students with food on the weekend and during holidays. The impact this is going to have for our students is overwhelming,” says the organization. 

photo/ pexels

Hunger a Factor in Academic Performance

Roughly 5% of students in the U.S. leave before they’ve completed high school — which can increase their risk of being unemployed, reduce their earning potential by $162 a week, and result in other negative outcomes. 

A National Center for Education Statistics study found falling behind in schoolwork or receiving poor grades was one of the top catalysts for ninth graders dropping out, and students from low-income families leave more often due to those reasons than students from middle- or high-income households.

Hunger can also be a factor. Separate research revealed numerous elements that influence academic performance — including students’ motivation and ability to concentrate — can be negatively affected when they arrive at school hungry because they aren’t getting enough to eat at home.

In the U.S., 1 in 6 children — a total of 13 million — face hunger issues. Three-quarters of educators say students regularly show up at their school without having had enough food, according to a survey of teachers and principals conducted by No Kid Hungry, an awareness campaign from the nonprofit organization Share Our Strength; 46% see students come to school that way daily.

“In the United States today, facing hunger can mean different things,” the study reports. “Maybe there is no food in the house and no money to buy any. Maybe there’s food, but not enough to last through the end of the month, so parents skip meals, or kids get smaller portions than they need.

“Whatever their situation, kids who don’t have reliable access to three healthy meals a day are much more likely to face unhealthy, unsuccessful, uncertain futures.”

In addition to difficulty focusing, educators have observed numerous other issues stemming from student hunger — including illness, fatigue, and behavioral problems.

A Lack of Food Can Have Lasting Consequences 

Children are also aware hunger presents learning issues; 46% feel it hurts their performance during the school day. Food insecurity issues can extend outside of the classroom, as well. Approximately 12% of children say that at night, they’re sometimes too distracted by hunger to complete their homework.

Not having enough to eat can also take an emotional toll. In addition to worrying that hunger-related aspects will negatively impact their future, 42% of children from low-income families feel sadness because they don’t have enough to eat, according to No Kid Hungry’s findings.

Students have inadequate food resources for several reasons. Monetary constraints are a major cause; 59% of parents said in the survey that the food they purchased during the prior year didn’t last long enough, and when that occurred, they didn’t have the funds to buy more. 

Nearly a quarter — 23% — of low-income parents have had to reduce the size of their children’s meals because of the cost, and almost half (48%) can’t afford to buy enough food on a monthly basis to feed their family. 

The quality of the cuisine kids are eating can also pose challenges. More than a third, 34%, of parents say they have difficulty providing nutritious and balanced meals due to the involved expense.

While teachers often try to help — 59% regularly purchase food for students who aren’t getting enough to eat, which, on average, costs educators $300 a year — their efforts haven’t eradicated the problem.

A number of national and state initiatives designed to supplement what kids receive at home haven’t, either. The At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program, a component of the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program, provided more than 250 million after-school snacks to children in 2017, according to an analysis conducted by No Kid Hungry.

While a notable number of snacks and meals were distributed that year, eight times as many school lunches were given to students in need across the U.S. — suggesting more children would potentially benefit from food provided outside of the school day than the ones who currently receive it.

HealthKeeperz Pitching In To Keep Students in North Carolinas From Going Hungry 

Although federal programs like the At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program supply crucial provisions to help reduce hunger to ensure children in need have access to enough nutritious food in and outside of school, additional assistance will likely be needed. 

In response, several local programs have been established to increase the number of available food resources — such as the BakPak Pals program, which addresses hunger issues in schools in North Carolina’s Robeson County, where 34% of children experience food insecurity due to monetary or other barriers that prevent them from having consistent access to adequate amounts of food.

And this is where HealthKeeperz jumped in with much-needed participation.

“Thank you so much for partnering with Hope Alive Ministries and Communities in Schools of Robeson County to support our BakPak Program for the 2022-23 school year,” HealthKeeperz was told. “We have combined your financial support with other partnerships and financial support to be able to provide 40 BakPaks on a weekly basis to all elementary schools for the public schools of Robeson County.”

BakPak Pals provides students with packages of food to take home on weekends and holidays, potentially helping to contribute to student success since food insecurity issues can extend to nighttime, according to No Kid Hungry’s research.

The BakPak Pals program is operated by Communities in Schools of Robeson County, which was established in 1992 as a regional branch of Communities in Schools — a national organization that connects students to community-based support — to address the county’s high dropout rate. 

During the 2017-2018 school year, a total of 384 students in Robeson County schools received food packages.

Several entities have contributed funds to help facilitate the BakPak Pals program, including HealthKeeperz, which provided financial support for CIS’ 2022-2023 school year initiative.

For more than 50 years, HealthKeeperz, which began as a local pharmacy in Pembroke, North Carolina, has provided health care services to communities in the state. Since its start in 1966, HealthKeeperz has expanded to include hospice services, medical equipment and supplies, and home health care — something that took on heightened importance during the COVID-19 pandemic, when sheltering-in-place guidelines were in effect to help prevent the virus from spreading.

While some of the in-home care work HealthKeeperz performs involves seniors, it can also include helping young patients achieve a fulfilling, active lifestyle — something research has shown teens with special health needs and their families can potentially benefit from.

One study found establishing a medical home — which may sound like an external location where a patient would live but is generally defined by the Primary Care Collaborative as a coordinated approach to forming a partnership with the person’s primary care providers — can enhance both teens’ transition to self-management and their primary caregiver’s quality of life.

With the support CIS and the BakPak Pals program obtained from organizations like HealthKeeperz this year, 40 food packages are being given weekly to elementary schools within the public school system in Robeson County. The BakPak Pals distribution effort is scheduled to extend from Oct. 20, 2022, through May 2023.

To find out about available BakPak Pals volunteering options, donation opportunities, and other ways to get involved, visit the CIS of Robeson County website. More information about HealthKeeperz can be found on its site.


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